"Don’t allow anyone to pull you down!"

2021-03-08

The official theme for this years International Women's Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, recognizing the need to call out gender bias and inequality. Areeve's challenge is to ask questions.

Areeve's older daughter plays soccer at club level today.

Areeve's older daughter plays soccer at club level today. 

Areeve Oliver together with two work colleagues at a congress in 2019.

Areeve together with two work colleagues at a congress in 2019.

Areeve and her friend and mentor Amanda regularly exchange about potential challenges of women in their work environment and private lifes.

Areeve with her friend and mentor Amanda regularly exchange about potential challenges of women in their work environment and private lives. 

Areeve Oliver, Key Account Manager at Siemens Healthineers, has developed a pragmatic approach to gender equality during her career: Equal opportunities in this regard. “To me, any task, strategy, or situation isn’t for either a man or a woman. It’s just a task, a strategy, or a situation: Something that needs to be taken care of. I always concentrate on what needs to be done and involve everyone equally and hold them equally accountable for.”

Areeve is well aware of some inequalities between men and women that still exist in society. From her personal network and friends, she sometimes hears about a topic she describes as “silent violence”, that really upsets her: “Imagine a woman who receives push-back in her professional role, not because she’s not successful, but because her work environment – maybe a colleague or manager – is intentionally or unintentionally disrespecting her. This may easily lead to a person feeling less valuable. It’s invisible, and at the same time it’s visible.”

One of her best friends from her university days is Areeve’s mentor and role model: “She’s a very successful black woman who worked hard in her career and today is an Executive Director at a specialist healthcare service provider consultancy focused on public and health management.” To Areeve, the history of South Africa as an apartheid country for many years is an additional factor that has to be considered in addition to potential gender inequalities: “I think that there are still some situations where you have to prove yourself as a black woman in roles that historically were dominated by white males.”

Speaking about what best supports women to confront the challenges in their careers, Areeve recommends continuous learning and a high level of self-motivation. “Know in your own mind that you can do it and you will do it. This will not allow society or anyone else to pull you down. You’re going to achieve your goals,” she says, describing the mindset. Having conducted several job interviews with university graduates, she still wonders about their thinking: “They just wanted to do what’s in the job description but not learn and grow. ’At the same time, they want to quickly climb the career ladder. I personally don’t believe in this attitude. Learning and asking questions prepares you for the future.”

Sometimes you can choose to challenge a situation by directly asking questions. That’s what Areeve has shown her daughter, who had one big wish: to play soccer. “Girls still get a lot of push-back and get labeled when they want to play soccer,” she explains, “and her school didn’t even have a girls’ soccer team.” When she tried to change this, she got push-back as well: “They said that they didn’t have the facilities, the fields, and so on, but we said ‘We’re not asking you to give us more: We just want her to be able to play soccer like the boys do'."

"In the end", Areeve concludes smiling, “my daughter got her name on the wall of the school as one of the best soccer players, and the girls’ soccer team is still in place, while she left the school some years ago.” Today, she plays soccer at club level.